There’s Wine Bargains…and there’s Mouton

Yesterday’s New York Sun ran a rather interesting and entertaining article on the crazy ascent in prices of the worlds most collectible wines. The star of the show these days is, apparently,1945 Mouton Rothschild, which recently sold for $290,000 for a case.

According to the article many of the "trophy wines" are spiraling up in price, a trend that began in the early fall. The question is why?

Jeff Zacharia of Zachys Auction House explains the upward momentum this way:

"You have more wealthy collectors chasing investment-grade wines, and that brings more of those wines to market."

This is not so much an explanation as to why the market for collectors wines is spiraling upward as much as it is an explanation of the mechanism by which wine prices are pushed upward. Digging deeper into the article Zacharia says "A new cohort of no-holdsbarred buyers from  and the Pacific Rim has intensified demand for top wines."

Hmmm. Maybe. But the most interesting advice that comes out of the article exits from Peter Meltzer’s mind. Meltzer is the auction editor for the Wine Spectator. He thinks like me:

"What’s really heartening is
that the market has polarized, It’s the trophy
wines at the top for which people will duel to the depths of their
pockets, while the lower end of the price spectrum tends to be sane,
sound, and accessible. You can buy off-vintages and unsung wines at
below retail, often for well under $500 per lot."

See now we are talking. What Meltzer is pointing to are bargains.

For example, over at here is a list of 106 lots of 1990 – 1997 California Cabernet, each no more than $40 per bottle. Most of them are Napa Valley Cabs.

I’ve admitted it here before: I’m an auction bottom feeder. I enjoy going through auction catalogs and looking for those interesting wines that don’t cost that much but might bring a bit of a surprise. For example:

2000 Napa Valley Snowden Sauvignon Blanc
This has got to be worth the $10 current bid just as an experiment

Australian Ports for $35 and under
Some of these will be absolutely marvelous wines.

California Zins from 1980-2000 for $50 or Less
Do CA zins age? Here are a number of lots with many wines coming in under $25 a bottle. Find out.

Rieslings From Alsace, Germany, Austria, Australia, CA and Oregon all $35 or Less

3 Responses

  1. Fredric Koeppel - November 2, 2006

    It seems as if the bargains at auction are on the internet now. if you look at the auction catalogs from the houses, they’re filled with all the big names, first growths, grand crus, cult cabernets and so on, but not much of what middle-range (or bottom-feeding) buyers used to go to auctions for, the affordable cases of more obscure chateaux or better names from supposedly off-years. The on-line auction companies seem to know what they’re doing for the common consumer, while the big houses have turned into plutocrats’ playgrounds.

  2. Joe - November 2, 2006

    I have one word for you that explains the stratospheric ascent in price of collectible wines; China. Wait a minute – make that two words; China; Dubai.

  3. Bill Wilson - November 2, 2006

    I’m also a bottom feeder at It’s astonishing to me how many good wines can be had for comparatively little money. A good number of these wines never even attract more than one bidder.
    Oops, maybe I’ve just given my secret away.
    Stay away from! Bad place, very bad place!!!! 🙂

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